Chris Blackhurst: Only white shirt I found in M&S was for an orang-utan - Business Comment - Business - The Independent

Chris Blackhurst: Only white shirt I found in M&S was for an orang-utan

Midweek View

Has Marc Bolland ever tried to buy a shirt in M&S? It's my challenge to him: go into any branch of Marks & Spencer and look for a plain white formal shirt. You will find chaos. There are Savile Row shirts and long-sleeved shirts and double cuffs and non-iron shirts. The choice goes on and on. But as I found in my local M&S in west London recently – having spilled my lunchtime soup and needing a shirt for an afternoon meeting – you almost certainly will not get the one you want.

There appears to be a paradox in operation at M&S: the larger the range, the bigger the section of store devoted to the item you want, the less likely they are to have it in stock. I wanted an M&S Savile Row white shirt. I wasn't bothered if it was buttons or double-cuff. I was concerned, given my relative shortness of height, not to have extra-long sleeves – I didn't want them hanging out of my jacket, scraping the ground like an orang-utan. Sure enough, that's all they had: white with extra-long sleeves. There were plenty of regular-length blues and pinks. But if I wanted a simple white shirt I had to have those additional inches in the arms.

Why is it like this? I interviewed Mr Bolland when he was at Morrison's. He proudly showed me round a shop that was neatly arranged, with clear lines of vision across the store, all the shelves well-stocked, staples visible and unavoidable, but luxuries as well for those who wanted them.

M&S's clothing sales have fallen for the eighth consecutive quarter. The excuse by executives is that their job is tough, that M&S is a monster, too big to get right easily and quickly, stuck with awkward sites, swamped by demographics and the need to cater to different markets. All that is true, but it also applies to other retailers, many of which are performing more successfully than M&S.

What M&S lacks is self-confidence and focus. The first thing Gordon Ramsay does on visiting a struggling restaurant for his Kitchen Nightmares TV show is to check the kitchens for cleanliness and waste, and to cut down the menu. The same should apply to M&S. It's too scared to reduce its ranges. The result is a mess.

It's too easy to blame poor design. M&S's problems are as much about logistics and organisation. Time is running out for Mr Bolland.

Why hippies can make good recruits

Well said, Rory Sutherland. The Ogilvy & Mather vice-chairman says those with first-class degrees are not always as suitable recruits as graduates with lower seconds or thirds.

Mr Sutherland despaired at the lack of "hippies, the potheads and the commies" on a recent visit to Cambridge, describing it as similar to a business school as students compete for employers to take them on. "Recruiting next year's graduate intake for Ogilvy would be easy. We could simply place ads in student newspapers: 'Headed for a 2:2 or a third? Finish your joint and come and work for us.'"

On a trip, also to Cambridge, where once the college bar would have been full in the evening, it was empty. "Everyone's too serious nowadays," said a senior don, apologetically, after I asked where all the students were.

Students and their tutors and parents should do well to remember that in the end, what employers are looking for is whether they want to work with that person. That can mean spending an awful lot of time with them – that means choosing someone who is personable and rounded, who gets on with people.

A scoop, 19 years in the making

What comes round comes round, eventually. I first wrote about the likelihood of Royal Mail privatisation 19 years ago on the front page of this newspaper. Michael Heseltine was President of the Board of Trade and he was considering the idea.

Alan Johnson was general secretary of the Union of Communication Workers and I recall tracking him down at the Labour conference to ask him what he thought. He mocked it then. Now, almost two decades later, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, is mooting the plan. And guess what? The union still don't like it one little bit.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Payroll & Accounts Assistant

£20 - 24k + Benefits: Guru Careers: This is a great opportunity for an enthusi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £280 - £320 p/d - 6 months

£280 - £320 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Senior BA - Insurance **URGENT**

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week